Brexit offers an almost unprecedented opportunity to boost the UK maritime sector

Brexit offers an almost unprecedented opportunity to boost the UK maritime sector

This week is London International Shipping Week 2017. It takes place every two years, and sees the world’s shipping companies convene in London to debate the future of trade. That International Shipping Week takes place in London is testament to the global influence that Britain exerts over maritime affairs.

London itself, for instance, is the world’s leading supplier of shipbroking services. More vessels are insured here than from any other location in the world. English law is applied to more shipping disputes than the law of any other country. And Britain provides a home to many international maritime bodies, such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Chamber of Shipping, and the Baltic Exchange.

London International Shipping Week is always an important week, but this year’s is significant for an additional reason; it’s the last to take place while we remain members of the European Union.

Fifteen months on from the largest democratic exercise our country has ever undertaken, we are well on the way to leaving the EU. The Government has triggered Article 50, begun negotiations over our terms of departure, and introduced the Great Repeal Bill into Parliament. There will be no going back.

Now London International Shipping Week is our opportunity to show the world the kind of country Britain will be after Brexit. Rather than turning inwards, as some have predicted, we will re-establish international connections that have been allowed to wither during our membership of the EU. For instance, in less than two years, for the first time in more than four decades, the UK will begin to enjoy an independent trade policy.

That independent trade policy really matters, because it will allow us to rediscover our national identity as a global, trading nation. That isn’t just abstract political theory. More trade means more jobs and prosperity in the maritime sector, thriving ports all around our country, and growing opportunities for maritime businesses of every kind. Of course we want to grow trade with Europe too, but outside the European Union, these new opportunities are there for the taking. So it’s been great to see our maritime sector using London International Shipping Week to get Brexit-ready.

At the same time, the Government is doing its bit to seize the opportunities of Brexit. The Department for International Trade has already established working groups to strengthen trade ties with partners around the world, including the United States, Australia, China, India, Mexico, South Korea and countries in the Gulf.

To make the most of these ties, we are planning for an increase in the amount British people and companies buy and sell with these countries. And that means strengthening our maritime industries – the ports, shipping lines and maritime workforce that will help carry products to and from our shores.

That’s why this week the Government has announced our ambitions to double the fleet flying the UK’s Red Ensign flag, double the number of people taking maritime apprenticeships, and launch a new era of British ship building as part of a National Ship Building Strategy.

These initiatives should provide a real boost to UK shipping in the coming years, but Brexit also gives us a chance to look to the much longer term. So this week we also announced that we will draw up a plan to shape and grow Britain’s maritime industry up to 2050.

Brexit is an almost unprecedented economic opportunity, and our plan will prepare our maritime sector for more trade, more growth and more jobs. I am pleased that that confidence has been on display to the world during International Shipping Week 2017.